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Please note: This summary is provided to help you understand the regulations. Consult the references provided for links to the full text of the regulations.

Hazardous Waste TransportHazardous Waste Transport

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Hazardous waste transporters are individuals or companies that move hazardous waste from one site to another by road, rail, water, or air. This includes transporting hazardous waste from a generator's site to a facility that can recycle, treat, store, or dispose of the waste.

The federal regulations that affect hazardous waste transportation were promulgated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Transportation (US DOT). To avoid regulatory discrepancies and redundant regulations, the hazardous waste transporter regulations were developed jointly by EPA and US DOT. Although the regulations are integrated (e.g., cross referenced), they are not located in the same part of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). US DOT's Hazardous Materials Transportation Act regulations are found in 49 CFR Part 171 to 49 CFR 179, while the EPA's Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) Subtitle C transporter requirements are located in 40 CFR 263.

Please note that some state environmental and transportation agencies have adopted rules that may differ from the federal standards. In some states, the state rules are more stringent than the federal rules.

This section of TERC provides a brief overview of the requirements imposed on hazardous waste transporters, with an emphasis on federal EPA regulations. This section also contains other resources, including links to US DOT hazardous materials rules and state agency information.

Who is covered by the regulations?

EPA regulations apply to hazardous waste transporters, which under Subtitle C of RCRA is defined as any person engaged in the off-site transportation of hazardous waste within the U.S., if such transportation requires a hazardous waste manifest (discussed below). State definitions of hazardous waste transporters may vary from this federal definition.

What is the purpose of the regulations?

Regulations enacted under Subtitle C of RCRA (40 CFR 260-265) are intended to prevent hazardous waste from causing human health issues or environmental damage due to improper management, transport, treatment or disposal.


The hazardous waste regulations place responsibility on each entity involved as the waste moves from the site of generation to its ultimate disposal site. As such, the rules are often collectively referred to as a "cradle-to-grave" system. These regulations include waste identification and other general rules, plus standards that specifically apply to businesses that:

To comply with the regulations, hazardous waste transporters must:

  • Obtain an EPA identification number
  • Comply with the manifest system and keep records
  • Respond appropriately to hazardous waste discharges
  • Comply with all applicable US DOT regulations

Each of these responsibilities is discussed below:

Obtaining an EPA Identification (ID) Number. Hazardous waste transporters must obtain an EPA Identification number by submitting a Notification of Regulated Waste Activity (EPA Form 8700-12 or state equivalent form). You need to only submit one notification that covers all hazardous waste transportation activities your company conducts unless your company also generates hazardous waste (each facility that generates hazardous waste requires its own EPA ID number). After your completed notification form is received and processed, you will be sent a written acknowledgement that will include your EPA Identification Number. You must use this number on all communications with EPA regarding your hazardous waste activities.

Manifest system and recordkeeping. The Hazardous Waste Manifest System is a set of forms, reports, and procedures designed to seamlessly track hazardous waste from the time it leaves the generator facility where it was produced, until it reaches the off-site waste management facility that will store, treat, or dispose of the hazardous waste. The system allows the waste generator to verify that its waste has been properly delivered, and that no waste has been lost or unaccounted for in the process.

The key component of this system is the Uniform Hazardous Waste Manifest which is a form prepared by all generators who transport, or offer for transport, hazardous waste for off-site treatment, recycling, storage, or disposal. When completed, the manifest contains information on the type and quantity of the waste being transported, instructions for handling the waste, and signature lines for all parties involved in the disposal process.

The manifest is required by both U.S. Department of Transportation and EPA and must be carried by the hazardous waste transporter (except for rail shipments) while en route to their destination. Each party, including the transporter, that handles the waste signs the manifest and retains a copy for themselves. This ensures critical accountability in the transportation and disposal processes. Once the waste reaches its destination, the receiving facility returns a signed copy of the manifest to the generator, confirming that the waste has been received by the designated facility. A transporter of hazardous waste must keep a copy of the manifest signed by the generator, the transporter, and the next designated transporter or the destination facility for at least three years from the date the hazardous waste was accepted by the initial transporter. Retention periods are extended automatically during unresolved enforcement actions or as required.

Although the Uniform Hazardous Waste Manifest form is standardized through the U.S., a number of states have additional state requirements regarding the use of the system. Some states require copies to be submitted to the state environmental agency, and/or have state-specific waste codes in addition to the federal hazardous waste codes required to be entered on the manifest.

As an alternative to the "paper manifest," EPA established a national system for tracking hazardous waste shipments electronically. This system, known as “e-Manifest,” will modernize the nation’s cradle-to-grave hazardous waste tracking process while saving valuable time, resources, and dollars for industry and states. EPA launched e-Manifest on June 30, 2018. Under the e-Manifest Act and EPA's implementing regulations, manifest users may continue to use paper manifests, however, EPA strongly encourages the use of electronic manifests as these manifests will be the least expensive and easiest way to comply with the regulations.

EPA has developed various resources to assist waste generators. These include the following:

Respond to hazardous waste discharges. If a transporter discharges or spills any quantity of hazardous waste during transportation (including loading, unloading, and temporary storage), they are required to take immediate action to prevent the further release of the hazardous waste and contain any released material to protect human health and the environment.

The transporter must clean up the hazardous waste discharge in a timely manner so that the waste no longer presents a hazard to human health or the environment. If a discharge of hazardous materials or hazardous waste occurs during transportation, an authorized official can allow the immediate removal of the waste by transporters who do not otherwise have an EPA identification number and without the preparation of a manifest if the official determines that such actions are necessary to protect human health or the environment.

A transporter who has discharged any quantity of hazardous waste during transportation (including loading, unloading, and temporary storage) must provide a written report to US DOT within 30 days as required by 49 CFR 171.16. States typically have similar requirements and usually transporters must submit duplicate copies of the report to their state transportation and/or environmental agencies. The TERC Reporting Spills section can help you determine the appropriate authorities to notify.

Comply with all applicable US DOT regulations. Hazardous waste is defined as a hazardous material under US DOT regulations. As such, all US DOT hazardous materials rules (49 CFR Part 171-179) apply to hazardous waste transporters. Separate sections of the regulations apply to hazardous material transport by rail (49 CFR 174.1 to 174.750), aircraft (49 CFR 175.1 to 175.900), vessel (49 CFR 176.1 to 176.905), or highway (49 CFR 177.800 to 177.870).

US DOT prepared a useful compliance summary for hazardous materials transport that covers shipper and transporter responsibilities, packing, training, emergency response, and other important topics.

Comply with rules regarding import or export of hazardous waste. Hazardous waste importers and exporters must comply with all applicable domestic laws and regulations (federal and/or state). This includes the RCRA hazardous waste transportation rules discussed in this section. Additionally, importers and exporters of hazardous waste are required to notify EPA in advance of the shipment.

Comply with rules covering transport of hazardous wastes from an off-shore oil rig to port. Hazardous waste generated from an offshore rig may be transported to port by vessel. State regulations apply within the boundary of state waters, unless the state is not authorized to implement RCRA, in which case federal regulations would apply. The transportation of hazardous waste from offshore rigs located on the Continental Shelf beyond the bounds of state waters are subject to regulation under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act.

A water transporter's requirements under the manifest regulations would depend on the location of the offshore oil rig. Hazardous waste transported to a port from an offshore oil rig located beyond the boundary of state waters would not be subject to the manifest regulations before the shipment was off-loaded at port. For situations involving vessels that transport hazardous waste to port from an offshore oil rig located within the boundary of U.S. territorial seas, EPA requires a water transporter to carry a manifest on its vessel.

More Resources

How to Comply with Federal Hazardous Materials Regulations. This U.S. Department of Transportation document provides only a general overview of the requirements for transporting hazardous materials by highway. For more specific requirements, carriers and shippers should consult the most current edition of 49 CFR Part 171-179. Motor carriers should also consult the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations.

Hazardous waste Transporters. U.S. EPA website that provides links to related information.

RCRA/Hazardous Waste State Resource Locator. This tool is primarily designed for hazardous waste generators; however, it also contains useful information for transporters including contacts at state agencies.